Friday, May 12th, 2017


Surro Gate

Admittedly, I'm looking at this through a personal lens, but I think I finally figured out Donald Trump's secret strategy: He's trying to explode the heads of news curators. Covering President Trump is the equivalent of covering the OJ White Ford Bronco chase if it lasted for 112 days. After the weird news deluge we've already encountered, why do the twists and turns (and loopty loops) of this week's constantly changing Comey story make it feel like a particularly large wrench has been thrown into the works of our communal prefrontal cortex? President Trump explains with a Tweet: "As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!...." (Yeah, every now and then, one teeny tiny, itsy bitsy, eensy weensy inconsistency might slip through...)

+ The NYT's Michael S. Schmidt reports that Trump asked for Comey's loyalty during a private dinner at the White House: "As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump's rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him." (Whether you buy the loyalty request part or not, you have to admit the other parts of the conversation sound pretty believable.) Trump responded to the news with another Tweet: "James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" (If there is a tape, you can expect a lot of remixes.)

+ Trump's lawyers released a certified letter claiming he has no Russian debts or investors. (I don't think it's particularly meaningful, but it's indicative of how weird everything is that the law firm that penned the letter was named Russia Law Firm of the Year in 2016.)

+ Trump was gonna visit the FBI offices. Trump is not gonna visit the FBI offices.

+ A reminder from the NYT that opinion is still divided: For Trump Supporters, the Real Outrage Is the Left's Uproar Over Comey.

+ And here's a headline that does a pretty good job summing up today's America: Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer Rode a Motorized Podium Through New York City.


Life Hackers

"An extensive cyberattack struck computers across a wide swath of Europe and Asia on Friday, and strained the public health system in Britain, where doctors were blocked from patient files and emergency rooms were forced to divert patients." A ransom-demanding malware attack that was first reported in England has now spread to as many as 12 countries. The tool being used was one of the items stolen from the NSA.

+ From The Guardian, here's the latest on the global hack.


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: If you want to get a better handle on the anger, despair, and frustration (with corporations and government) that is increasingly common in parts of America, watch this documentary on coal mine workers in West Virginia. Blood on the Mountain. Don Blankenship, a former chief exec at Massey Energy, is one of the people covered in the film. He just got out of prison, and immediately started tweeting. Plus, from the LA Times: With a letter a day, West Virginian tried to remind coal executive of his role in 29 deaths.

+ What to Binge: Season two of Gomorrah is now on Sundance TV. This Italian series is like The Sopranos without any of the levity or humor. It's violent, suspenseful, interesting, and riveting. (Soundtrack also great.)

+ Where to Escape: I know what you're thinking. You just suffered through a long week of news and I'm giving you a documentary on coal mine disasters and a series about mafia violence and destruction. Not in the mood for anything too serious? Don't worry. Aziz Ansari's Master of None is back with a new season Netflix.

+ What to Question: Fresh Air is turning 30. The shows producers picked their ten favorite interviews.


This is Your Sane on Drugs

Over the past few years, one of the few ideas that enjoyed bipartisan support was the move away from the draconian sentencing associated with the war in drugs. As of today, that movement has been reversed. From the LA Times: Sessions orders return to tough drug war policies that trigger mandatory minimum sentences.

+ Former Attorney General Eric Holder was not pleased with the move. "The policy announced today is not tough on crime. It's dumb on crime."


Beautiful Game in an Ugly World

"Syria's improbable World Cup bid has pitted player against player, coach against coach -- divisions that mirror the conflict that is remaking much of the world. During six years of civil war, at least 470,000 Syrians have died, and life expectancy in the country has dropped from 70 years to 55. Representing a nation with more than 12 million displaced people -- roughly half the population -- the national soccer team is yet another battleground between the followers and opponents of Bashar al-Assad." From the excellent Steve Fainaru in ESPN: Backed by FIFA's tacit support, Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria has woven soccer into its grisly campaign of oppression, tearing apart a generation of players: The Dictator's Team.


Next Coworking Trend: Drywall

Keep your friends close. Keep your co-workers closer. That seemed to be the message of the open office, coworking spaces that have quickly spread across the commercial real estate landscape. But then people realized that sitting at big tables in reverberant rooms with loud and often irritating strangers isn't necessarily conducive to getting work done. Hence, this from Quartz: Coworking doesn't mean what it used to: "When a coworking company called Alley opened its first location near Penn Station in in 2011, 90% of the space was filled with open desks that anyone could pay to use. At its most recent location, 90% of the space is filled with dedicated desks and private offices ... At WeWork, 90% of space is occupied by private offices that start at $400 per month, according to the company."


Local Hero Complex

"Locals resent the enormous traffic problems, soaring housing prices and building frenzy that have accompanied this bonanza, all of which cause jitters about inequality in a town that sees itself as egalitarian." From Bloomberg: Amazon Has Made Seattle Richer and Angrier. You can insert any number of tech companies for Amazon and any number of cities for Seattle, and that headline would still hold up.


Oy Story

"It was a 15-year run of unmatched commercial and creative excellence, beginning with Toy Story in 1995 and culminating with the extraordinary trifecta of wall-e in 2008, Up in 2009, and Toy Story 3 (yes, a sequel, but a great one) in 2010. Since then, other animation studios have made consistently better films." The Atlantic makes the case that Pixar has lost its way.


Malo Lava

"No one gets up earlier than Dwayne Johnson. Or goes to bed later. Or is more awake during the hours in between. No one in Hollywood is more buff, more driven, or gets paid better. The man has so much charisma and ambition he can do anything. Comedy, action, pretty little cartoon voices." From GQ: Dwayne Johnson for President! (You know what? At this point, bring it on...)


Bottom of the News

"The Madden Curse holds that a player featured on the cover of the game is destined for something bad to happen -- a lousy season or an injury." Well this year, the curse has met its match: Tom Brady.

+ McSweeney's: Winners And Losers Of The Recent Nuclear Holocaust.

+ Austin American Statesman: Scientists shocked, intrigued by this San Marcos deer chewing on human bones. (My dogs were intrigued, but not shocked. My cats didn't give a shit.)